What a time to be a young adult.
Fading chances of home owning. University becoming more and more unaffordable. No so-called ‘living wage’ (despite not actually being the independently approved living wage) until 25.
So why, then, is it at all surprising that, according to Hope Worsdale of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Jeremy Corbyn is currently the only Labour leadership candidate to capture the imagination of Young Labour?
I can’t speak for my generation and my peers – nor would I wish to – but while Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper all have merit as potential Labour leaders, only one seems a viable candidate.
Despite the prophesying surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s divisive bid for Labour leader, commentators are somewhat missing the point. For the disenfranchised youth of today, Corbyn addresses issues which threaten Labour’s future and plague British politics in general.
Perhaps the greatest charge levelled against Labour by first time voters in recent years has been a perceived lack of difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Both are, apparently, pro-austerity and pro-Trident. Same old, same old. While this perspective is certainly due to the shameful lack of political education for young people – how can young people hope to vote without being educated about their vote? – the simple truth is that Labour doesn’t do enough to differentiate themselves from their bitter rivals; as Greens leader Natalie Bennett put it, “austerity-heavy and austerity-lite”. Indeed, this accusation is even more crushing given Harriet Harman’s disappointing decision to urge MPs to abstain from the vote on the Welfare Bill; in the words of rebel Diane Abbott MP, 48 Labour MPs were not “sent to Parliament to abstain” – Corbyn was the only potential leader among their number.
So, at last, here’s a genuine leftie who opposes war and austerity! Here’s someone who actually has some spark and fight! He doesn’t even wear a tie! Hooray! A Corbyn victory would finally allow Labour to differentiate themselves from the Tories in what is increasingly looking like a post-election race to the right. Let’s not forget: on the back of the Labour party member card it literally cites “democratic socialism” as the core of the movement’s ethos. Is it so unreasonable to vote for, you know, a democratic socialist
However, regardless of political leaning, Corbyn is also the rare figure who speaks with, not at, the voter, a far cry from the painfully rehearsed candidates opposing him.
I was at the Labour hustings in Nottingham. Corbyn not only earned the most laughs and the most applause, but he was the also the candidate least resembling a traditional politician. In short, given his indefatigable background in peace campaigning and three decades’ work for his constituents in Islington North, Corbyn feels the least like a careerist. That may be an unfair slight on his opponents, but to the majority of young people, perception is everything, and Corbyn seems atypical. Perhaps a parallel is Nigel Farage – while being poles apart in politics and attitude, both flout the typical expectations of a potential leader. It is no coincidence that many young voters were lured to the garish purple of the UKIP banner.
It is for the reasons above that all the warnings levelled against supporting Corbyn, both within and outside of the party, are unreasonable. While papers and pundits are all predicting Labour edging further into the political wilderness, a lack of comprehension as to why a Corbyn victory would spell disaster is hardly surprising – now-derogatory terms such as Bennite or Trotskyite mean little to disillusioned Young Labour members. Many are either too young or too optimistic to be weighed down by extinct political terms; it is more important that, in a political landscape drained of hope and a principled opposition, Corbyn offers both.
It is that word – “hope” – which is so important. The SNP, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain all swept to power offering hope on an anti-austerity platform. Corbyn offers hope on an anti-austerity, anti-Trident platform. The catalysing effect of hope on the electorate is clear.
Regardless of eventual success, hope is the key consideration. For our generation, the future is devoid of hope: debt, rented accommodation and the most competitive job market in memory. Corbyn offers an alternative. Corbyn does, indeed, offer hope.
Those of us voting for Corbyn aren’t naïve. Corbyn isn’t the answer, because it’s highly likely that Labour isn’t the answer; changing constituency boundaries, a lurking Boris Johnson and a desire for electoral representation to boost the vote of the smaller parties all render a Labour victory anytime soon almost impossible. But to those who would condescend, patronise or ignore us: simply try to understand us, to work with us, and to offer us something to believe in. Offer us hope.